Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early (well... noon is bright, at least), and after speaking with my parents for an hour, I summoned the energy to get dressed and packed and headed out for Seoul. Thanks to my wonderful boss, I arrived $5 later at the bus terminal and purchased a ticket to whisk me away from the Chuseok-celebrating, filled-to-the-brim Daegu. The bus was amazing! It only seated 30 people, and I got to sit in the way back. The seats were reclining, had foot rests, and had speakers in the headrests for the movies that played. 4 hours of luxury later, I arrived ready to take the town (21 million people probably qualifies it as a city?) by storm.
Unfortunately, the storm hit me first. I had forgotten it is still summer, which means it is still 8x degrees during the day and 8x% humidity. Regardless, I persevered, determined to find a hotel to lose my backpack. After an hour of wandering, a very kind Korean literally walked me to a hotel, and she fretted because it was $100 a night. Considering this is average back home, I decided to splurge, and I was not disappointed! The room turned out to be a business suite, complete with a kitchen area larger than my apartment, a loft, and the softest bed I've slept on in months. I think the best part was just the feeling of luxury. Somewhere between Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters, I fell asleep and remained as much for thirteen hours. Wow!
Sunday morning I set up camp at Starbucks to plan out the day with an English map. Seoul really is set up well for tourism with plenty of guides in Chinese, English, Japanese, and interpreters for German, French, and Spanish--free! One grande caramel macchiato and pumpkin apricot scone later, I was ready to embark on my first Asian palace.
I was not disappointed. Because the Koreans are celebrating their Thanksgiving ("Chuseok"), they had traditional games and music going throughout the day. It was very cool to watch the changing of the guard, and the traditional drums were exactly like you hear and see in movies! What I liked most was the scientific observation building. It is surrounded by a man-made lake and beautiful tropical trees; I felt at peace, despite the rocks in my socks and being drenched with sweat.
After wandering around Gyeongbukdong Palace for an hour (yeah, I spelled that without looking it up), I headed to the (air conditioned) museum to pick up a souvenir and to snoop around. There I found someone willing to allow me to take her photo in the traditional hanbok (mild jealousy, may have to hope someone has a little girl soon so I can send them one), and in the back I got a snapshot of one of the royal antique cars. The first floor of the museum was dedicated to what life was like for Emperors during their formative years, and it's hard to see those cutesy outfits and acknowledge that they would grow into the supreme warrior of the nation. I rested on a bench, staring at some cement playground-looking thing while basking in the air conditioning and resting my feet. Once I got up to see what it was, I laughed: I was staring at a place to store the placenta that carried the king for 10 minutes. Awesome.
After, I made my way back to the subway and managed to navigate a line change to get myself to Itaewon, a section of Seoul dedicated to foreigners. There I managed to conquer a Quizno's sandwich and purchase a new pair of Croc sandals, and the day looked up from there, with some help from the hilarious menu I saw boasting new Korean delicacies to avoid.
Once the shopping came to a conclusion, I was able to get a hold of someone who got stuck with a bar tab a few weeks ago. We had an awesome dinner that was served in a shovel and raw--we had to cook chicken with chopsticks! At first I was worried that I accidentally gave myself food poisoning, but after a panicked phone call home, we decided it was probably more closely related to stress and a need to get back to Daegu and relax.
My trip concluded with the adventure of going through the Seoul train terminal, where I went shopping and enjoyed one last cheese-laden sandwich (chicken panini) before returning to Daegu. I am glad for the opportunity to go to Seoul, but I look forward to going back when it is cooler. Another plus, I have another day off to enjoy my currently very clean apartment. Assa!
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